Former NBA commissioner David Stern called New Orleans Pelicans executive Dell Demps a "lousy general manager" while discussing the nixed trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers in 2011 — a move that Stern memorably vetoed.
New Orleans at the time was owned by the league, making Stern the de facto owner.
"I did it because I was protecting the then-Hornets," Stern told Sports Illustrated in a story published Wednesday. "To this day, everyone always asks me, 'Well why did you keep Chris Paul from going to the Lakers?' I didn't keep him. I didn't approve the trade. No team sells or trades a future Hall of Famer without the owner signing off, and I was the owner's rep. But I wasn't going to hand up Dell Demps."
Stern confided that he "didn't do a great job of explaining it at the time."
"There was a trade that Dell Demps wanted us to approve and I said heck no, but he had told (Rockets GM) Daryl Morey and (then-Lakers GM) Mitch Kupchak he had authority to do it and he didn't. I said no."
Stern, who retired as NBA commissioner in 2014, told SI that Demps had agreed to trade Paul to the Lakers in exchange for Kevin Martin and Luis Scola and in response he pushed for the Pelicans to get more out of the deal. The proposed trade would have given the Pelicans Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, the No. 10 draft pick that year and center Chris Kaman.
"But Dell Demps is a lousy general manager," Stern said, "and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose (All-Star forward and MVP candidate) Anthony Davis."
Stern, 56, retired as commissioner after a 30-year career that began in 1984 — Michael Jordan's rookie season. He also told SI that he isn't surprised by LeBron James' decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, saying: "I always thought it was going to happen that way."
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